BRU: No Fare Hikes Without Public Process

Earlier this morning, the Bus Rider’s Union rallied at the Wilshire/Western Transit Station to urge the Metro Board to not go forward with planned fare hikes for Metro bus and rail services until a full public hearing schedule is announced and executed. In May of 2007, the Metro Board adopted a motion to increase fares on July 1 of that year and again on July 1, 2009. As part of Measure R, the 2009 fare increase was postponed until this year. As a result, the BRU is pushing for an open hearing process, because by the day of the new fares, it will have been over three years since the last hearing on the hikes. From their press release:

Three years ago, in a heated and contested fare increase public hearing, an MTA board majority voted for a fare increase proposal in an attempt to pass a two-phased fare hike plan, all the while over 1,500 bus riders and supporters and a strong MTA minority Board bloc led by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expressed their opposition and were one vote shy of defeating the fare increase proposal. But the last two years have created different financial realities for many on the streets and the MTA has been no exception, but in contrast to struggling working class families impacted by government service cuts, layoffs, and foreclosures; since 2007 MTA has secured a third transit sales tax and federal stimulus funding and while impacted by state transportation cuts, their budget has grown substantially.

To give you an anecdotal idea of how long ago May of 2007 is; at that time I was still sitting at a desk in New York City wondering how Hillary Clinton was going to beat Rudy Giuliani to become President. Streetsblog Los Angeles was still ten months from being launched.

So what does the BRU want? Basically, they want a chance to make their case against a fare hike through the public process, believing they can either get some more funds from Measure R for transit operations or at least put more political heat on those backing the hikes. Just like any other hearing process, they want sixty days notice of a public hearing to be held in a room larger than the Metro Board room. In 2007, so many people showed up to protest the increases at Metro HQ, that many were left without an ability to provide comment.

Which is not to say that the concept of increasing fares does not have supporters. Recently, the Times editorialized in favor of fare increases for Metro to help stabilize the "fare box recovery ratio," or in plain English to have riders support a higher percentage of the agencies operating costs. The recovery ratio for Metro is less than thirty percent, which doesn’t compare favorably to agencies for other major cities. For example, BART up in the Bay Area has a recovery ratio of over fifty percent. While most speakers spoke against hikes at the May 2007 hearing, there were notable exceptions including the Transit Coalition’s Bart Reed, members of So.CA.TA., and even Damien Goodmon.

In addition to the hikes, the Bus Riders are also worried about planned cuts to bus service that will be coming later this year.

MTA’s staff is also pushing for additional draconian measures by advocating for the MTA board to cut 145,000 of bus services for next years budget. If these cuts are implemented MTA would have cut close to 500,000 hours of bus service expansion won under the civil rights Consent Decree (representing over half of the court order remedies won under the decree).

The BRU’s full press release, which includes a chart showing what fares will be raised and by how much without action, can be found after the jump.

Bus Riders Union Urges MTA Board To Open

A Public Hearing Process for Looming 2010 Proposed Fare Increase

Fare Hike Proposal Violates the Civil, Economic, and Environmental Rights of Bus Riders

Los Angeles, February 24, 2009 – The Bus Riders Union will hold a press conference urging MTA Chair Ara Najarian, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LADOT General Manager Rita Robinson and LA City Councilmember Jose Huizar to reject any proposal to close MTA’s self-imposed "operations deficit" by imposing fare increases or bus service cuts and to create a public hearing process. In the last two years, people have lost their jobs, homes, access to countless social services and the city of Los Angeles city has the highest unemployment rate in decades with no concrete economic recovery or stimulus in sight. The Bus Riders Union believes any proposal to cut service and raise fares on low-income working class riders of color during these tough economic times is an affront and a violation of civil and human rights of half a million Latino, Black and Asian bus riders, who make over 90% of MTA bus ridership.

MTA’s 2010 Fare Increase Proposal

Current 7/1/10

Cash

$1.25

$1.50

20% increase

Token

$1.25

$1.50

20% increase

Owl service

$1.25

$1.50

20% increase

Day pass

$5.00

$6.00

20% increase

Weekly

$17.00

$20.00

18% increase

Monthly

$62.00

$75.00

21% increase

EZ Pass

$70.00

$84.00

20% increase

Fare Increase and Bus Service Cuts: Double trouble for civil rights and mobility MTA officials themselves have acknowledged that fare increases reduce ridership. In 2004, ridership decreased by 5% within a year and riderhsip has decreased 8% in the last year. MTA’s staff is also pushing for additional draconian measures by advocating for the MTA board to cut 145,000 of bus services for next years budget. If these cuts are implemented MTA would have cut close to 500,000 hours of bus service expansion won under the civil rights Consent Decree (representing over half of the court order remedies won under the decree).

MTA staff is attempting to circumvent the publics right to a fare increase hearing

MTA staff is raising the specter of fare increase and service cuts for July 2010. MTA staff has been operating under the assumption that fare increases are a given and are moving to implement the second phase of the fare increase motion adopted in May, 2007 and will circumvent the right of the public to shape, debate and hopefully defeat a fare increase proposal. We urge the MTA Board of Directors to protect the rights of bus riders and the public to have a pubic hearing on any proposed fare hikes and service cuts. We ask for the following: a.) MTA should at minimum give a 60-day notice of a proposed fare increase vote, b.) Hold a public hearing on a weekend to allow full public participation, c.) Hold the public hearing in a larger space like the LA County Board of Supervisors boardroom d.) Hold a public hearing that requires the attendance of the full MTA Board and a formal vote.

MTA’s deficit is a construction deficit, not a bus operation deficit…Transit Racism Wants to Roll Over Civil Rights

The MTA’s annual budget has grown about $1 billion since the fare increases were approved in 2007. MTA’s "deficit" is a self-imposed one; MTA’s aggressive plans to expand rail projects come with large construction price tags and virtually no operation funding to run these projects. MTA’s upcoming budget has the new burden to operate the Eastside Gold Line and impending operation of the Expo I Light Rail. The real solution to the "deficit" crisis will require the MTA to slow down and evaluate its aggressive and unsustainable rail and highway spending outlined in Measure R and the 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan and instead aggressively lobby the State and Congress to get more operations funds. Raising fares and cutting service is not the solution to LA’s "deficit" it will only exacerbate the situation and "drive" people off mass transit.

Three years ago, in a heated and contested fare increase public hearing, an MTA board majority voted for a fare increase proposal in an attempt to pass a two-phased fare hike plan, all the while over 1,500 bus riders and supporters and a strong MTA minority Board bloc led by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expressed their opposition and were one vote shy of defeating the fare increase proposal. But the last two years have created different financial realities for many on the streets and the MTA has been no exception, but in contrast to struggling working class families impacted by government service cuts, layoffs, and foreclosures; since 2007 MTA has secured a third transit sales tax and federal stimulus funding and while impacted by state transportation cuts, their budget has grown substantially.

Hard Times Require Real Leadership: We urge MTA Board of Directors to Reject MTA Staff’s Circumvention of a Public Process and Support the Civil Rights and Environmental Rights of Bus Riders of Color by Rejecting Any Fare Increase and Service Cuts Proposal.

In May 2007, after an aggressive political campaign by the BRU to pressure Mayor Villaraigosa, he took a stand against a draconian set of fare increases. This year, we call on Mayor Villaraigosa and the newest members of the Board Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, General Manager Rita Robinson and Councilmember Jose Huizar reject any proposal to close the deficit that includes fare increases and service cuts and to protect the civil, economic and environmental rights of ½ million Black, Latino, Asian and white working class bus riders, who cannot afford to pay a penny more.

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